Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Darker Than Black






Overall Rating: B+
Summary: Known as Kuro no Keiyakusha in Japan, this neo-noir/supernatural series is set 10 years after a Hell Gate opened in Tokyo. The Gate proved impossible to analyze, and it  replaced the stars in the sky with false ones. At the same time, psychics capable of wielding paranormal abilities began to appear.

These individuals are known as Contractors, because they are required to complete a "payment" each time their power is used (for example, eating flowers, breaking fingers, drinking blood).  Each Contractor has a corresponding star, which vibrates when the Contractor uses their power. As such, Contractor's are identified by their star's Messier catalogue number. It's strongly implied that the Contractors lack human emotion and are nothing more than cold-blooded killers. For this reason, many organizations use them as agents.

The series focuses on Hei, a Contractor who plays a "nice guy" student from China named Li Shengshun when undercover, but becomes a cold-blooded killer when on his missions. Not much is known of his past, other than that he had a sister named Pai who died when the South American gate imploded.

Hei works for a group known only as the Syndicate, and operates as a part of a team that includes Yin, an emotionless spirit medium known as a "Doll". Yin is passive and rarely speaks, but has the ability to locate individuals and can observe anything near water as long as she is touching water.

Other members of the team include Mao, a Contractor who lost his body and now resides within the body of a black cat, and Huang, the uninteresting field supervisor.

I heard about Darker Than Black a few months back, and had been interested in seeing what it was like. It looked like one of those series that could be interesting or it could be "meh". Luckily, it was definitely the former. While I'm not in love with the series (I prefer series to give me some more depth to my characters), it's a solid concept, and so far the plot is interesting. I am hoping that in later episodes, Hei and Yin get a little more character development, we start to learn more about what created the Contractors, and where the story is going.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ghostbusters - Ghost Busted


Overall Rating: B+
Summary: An anthology of Ghostbusters stories set after the first two films written by Nathan Johnson and Matt Yamashita with art by Maximo V. Lorenzo, Hanzo Steinbach, Chrissy Delk, Michael Shelfer, and Nate Watson. If I were to categorize this book, it would be comedy/supernatural shonen.

The stories feature the Ghostbusters in six stories, with different characters taking center stage in each one. In one story, the gang is called in to help out a haunted Broadway production. Shortly thereafter, the director, stage manager, and star quit. As a result, Egon ends up replacing the star, Peter is the new director, and Ray is the stage manager. Needless to say, this leads to hilarity and hijinks. 

In another one of the stories, Ray learns that being a Ghostbuster can be pretty mundane at times. Meanwhile, Egon receives a mysterious call from his college mentor, who failed Egon after Egon began focusing on the paranormal. All of these stories build into the main plot, which involves an old enemy, and a group of anti-ghostbusters.

Apparently, this manga series leads into an upcoming videogame.


Who ya gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS! I came across this in Chapel Hill Comics a few weeks back, and was confused/amused/excited about it. Yes, that's right, it's a manga version of the Ghostbusters that Tokyopop put out. I really, really didn't know what to expect with this one, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing. It felt like the Ghostbusters, and was a really fun read. The only major drawback is the number of artists. With the artist chnging almost every chapter, it was really jarring, and made it hard to get a sense of style for the characters. That being said, there were enough common elements, that it wasn't too bad.

If you were a fan of the movies, then I definitely recommend checking this one out.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Captive Heart


Overall Rating: B
Summary: Created by Matsuri Hino, this Romantic Comedy/Supernatural shōjo story follows Megumi Kuroishi, a 20-year-old university student. As the series begins, Megumi's father, Yōshimi was the head butler for the Kōgami family. However, over the years he became their confidante and friend, and when they go missing in China, their fortune is left to him.

Megumi has become used to living in the lap of luxury and hopes that the Kōgami family is never found. Unfortunately for Megumi, soon after the series begins, his father learns that the family mayhave been found and leaves for China to find them. When he returns, he brings the Kōgami's only daughter (and the sole survivor of the Kōgami family), Suzuka, back with him. At first, Megumi 's dreams of living in luxury are shattered, but when he meets Suzuka, he immediately kneels before her and calls her "princess".

Megumi soon learns that he is descended from a thief, who stole a sacred scroll from the Kōgami family. The thief and all of his descendents are cursed to serve the Kōgami family. When Megumi looks into Suzuka's eyes, he is overcome by the curse and becomes her manservant.

However, true feelings may be beginning to form, and they must figure out what is caused by the curse and what is real.

I can't get enough of the shōjo series that Matsuri Hino, the creator of Vampire Knight, Wanted, and MeruPuri, puts out. This one actually caught my eye before I realized it was her work, and I liked the concept, so I gave it a shot. It hasn't drawn me in quite as much as her previous works, but it shows promise, and I'm still enjoying it. I think that if the characters begin to develop more, and as Megumi and Suzuka's relationship begins to grow, I'll be more engaged. Oh yeah! Keep an eye on Sōgaku, Megumi's best friend. She has a secret, and even though it's not critical to the plot, it's a nice touch that helps make "Captive Heart" more interesting. 

Friday, October 31, 2008

Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-Chan




Overall Rating: A
Summary: Comedy/gore/magical girl/insane anime follows Sakura Kusakabe, a second-year junior hgh school student. From the beginning, it's clear that Sakura has a huge crush on his classmate Shizuki. Unfortunately (or fortunately, Sakura doesn't seem sure himself), he lives with a crazy angel named Dokoro, a cute assassin from the future whose jb is to kill Sakura, but instead drives him crazy and tries to protect him. Oh, and she kills him, a lot, but she always resurects him with her chant "Pipiru piru piru pipiru pi". Did I mention this show is insane?

The show gets its name from the fact that Dokuro is constantly bludgeoning (and by bludgeoning I mean gory decapitation and dismemberment which somehow manages to be hilarious) Sakura with Excalibolg her gigantic spiked bat. Apparently, in the future Sakura attempts to create a "Pedophile's World" which forces all women stop aging after the age of twelve, and makes them immortal, which offends God (shocking, I know). Dokuro believes he can be redeemed and prevented from going down the path that leads him to create the technology that brings about the future she comes from, and so she acts as his protector by constantly annoying him so he can't think about creating anything (yep, wacky).

Unfortunately, more assassin angels are sent from the future to kill Sakura, and Dokuro has to protect Sakura from her former allies and even her younger sister.

As I mentioned (repeatedly), this anime is crazy However, it's also hilarious and awesome. It takes a lot of the sterotypes of anime and adds in ridiculous amounts of gore and plot so absurd that it's amazing. If you like your anime hilarious and with a little more mature themes, then this one is worth checking out. It's also incredibly short (each episode is only about 15 minutes long and there are 8 episodes), so it's a quick watch.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ultra Maniac


Overall Rating: A-
Summary: Created by Wataru Yoshizumi, the romantic comedy series follows seventh-grader Ayu Tateishi, a tennis club member, and her friend Nina Sakura, a transfer student from the magical kingdom who is actually a witch. Ayu is a well-adjusted 7th grade student. She is the best female tennis player and one of the most popular girls in the school, but she has trouble staying cool after she meets Nina.

Ayu and Nina meet when Ayu runs into Nina crying on one of the school benches outside. Nina explains she has lost something very important, and that's why she's freaking out. Ayu, being the nice and awesome girl that many protagonists of shojo seem to be,  offers to help find the item, but Nina is reluctant to tell her what it is and runs off. After school, Ayu stumbles across a mini-computer underneath the bench where she and Nina met, and assumes it belongs to Nina. After Ayu returns the item, Nina is exstatic, and keeps referring to a "big secret" she wants to tell Ayu, but is unsure about.

In order to determine whether she can trust Ayu, Nina begins following her around. Eventually, she decides to tell Ayu that she is a witch from the Magic Kingdom. Ayu is all "Say what?!? I don't believe in magic or fairy tales. I haven't even read Harry Potter!!!" Nina is incredulous and then spoils Book 7 for Ayu. Okay, not really. Instead Nina uses her mini-computer to cast some spells to help Ayu. Unfortunately, they have a nasty habit of going wrong.

For example, when she tries to make Ayu the best tennis player she can be, it turns her into a boy. It turns out that Nina is a failure as a witch, and she has come to Earth to prove to people in the Magic Kingdom that she is worthy of being a witch.

I really enjoyed this one, and highly recommend it. Of course, I'm a huge fan of shojo so it may not be for everyone, but if you like romantic comedy manga with a touch of the supernatural, then this one is great. There are some great scenes where Nina's magic messes things up, and Ayu has to try and deal with them. In the scene I mentioned where she's turned into a boy, she isn't used to being in the body, so even though she's supposedly faster she makes a lot of mistakes. Of course, since this is a shojo, she is very attractive as a boy and all the girls develop a crush on her. Classic.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gurren Lagann





Overall Rating: B+
Summary: This Shōnen anime takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where humans have been forced underground and live in isolated villages. The villages each have their own leaders and beliefs about the surface world, but few ever venture up to the surface themselves. Due to frequent eartqaukes, which damage the villages, individuals known as "diggers" are constantly digging tunnels to expand the villages.

The series follows Simon, a fourteen-year-old digger from Giha Village whose parents were killed in a cave in. One day, Simon finds a small, glowing drill while digging, and
fashions a necklace for the strange drill. After finding the drill, he runs into Kamina, an eccentric trouble-maker who dreams of finding his father on the surface. After recruiting Simon to help, Kamina tries to get past the village chief to break the ceiling of the village and get to the surface, but the chief stops them and throws Kamina in jail. Simon is let go as he is the village's best digger, so they need him too much to throw him in jail. Apparently, he is the rich, white male of the village.

While Kamina is stuck in jail, Simon returns to digging, only to find a "big face" deep in the tunnel. He breaks Kamina out to show him, but they are interrupted by the collapse of the ceiling, and an enormous robot falling into the cavern.

Yoko, a girl wearing a preposterous outfit consisting of a bikini top, hot pants, boots, and a scarf, appears with the robot and tries to take it down with a HUGE gun, but she misses a one-shot kill because Kamina is an idiot (this is a running theme in the show).

Simon takes Kamina and Yoko to show them the "big face", which is actually a small robot! The drill he found earlier turns out to be a key that he uses to activate the robot, which they name 'Lagann'. Together, Simon, Kamina and Yoko use Lagann to destroy the invading robot and break through to the surface.

The surface is a desolate wasteland inhabited by creatures called "beastmen" who pilot "Gunmen" (mecha like the one they just destroyed and Lagann. Simon and Kamina decide to defeat the beastmen so that humans can once again claim the surface, and set off on a journey to fight as many beastmen as they can find. Yoko and Leeron (your standard gay mechanic whose a friend of Yoko's) join them on their adventures.

This show is kind of hilairous. The more I watch it, the more self-aware I think it is. If you don't mind some fan-service and you are looking for a fun series to follow, then you should check this one out. In fact, I probably would have given the series an "A" if it weren't for the gratuitous fan service in the first few episodes. It seems to get toned down after a few episodes though, so I am looking forward to the next disc.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Plain Janes


Overall Rating: A+
Summary: Written by Cecil Castellucci with art by Jim Rugg, The Plain Janes follows Jane Beckles, a teenage girl from Metro City who is injured during a terrorist attack. After Jane recovers, her mother is too freaked out by the attack to continue living in the city, and so the family moves to the suburbs. Of course, Jane thinks her life is over in the boring town until she finds some true friends; three other girls named Jane.

Adopting the moniker Main Jane, Jane partners up with Brain Jane, Theatre Jane and Polly Jane to form a secret art gang named P.L.A.I.N. (or People Loving Art In Neighborhoods) to make the suburbs less boring and bring art into everyone's lives.

With the police trying to lock them up, some of the community outraged, and others supporting the group, can art attacks help save th girls from high school and the suburbs, or will the land themselves in jail?

I'm not really sure why I haven't reviewed The Plain Janes before now, because I absolutely adore this book. It makes me nostalgic for the days when I was a teenage girl artist, which is weird since I've never been very artistic (or a girl for that matter). I guess that's what really makes me love this book. It drew me in early on. All of the characters, and particularly the Janes, are extremely well-developed and interesting, and I quickly fell in love with it. I highly recommend checking this one out.
Download a sneak peek here

Monday, September 29, 2008

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

Overall Rating: B+
Summary: A Drama/Alternate History series featuring mecha, the anime is set in the near future. In 2010, the Holy Empire of Britannia has conquered more than one third of the world, and sets its sights on Japan. They defeat the Japanese forces easily with the help of their Knightmare Frames (bad ass mecha), and rename Japan Area 11.

The Japanese people, now referred to only as 11's are forced to live in ghettos in the still destroyed areas of Japan while the citizens of Brittania live in the reconstructed areas. However, there are small groups of rebels still fighting against the Empire.

The series itself focuses on Lelouch, the son of the Emperor of Britannia. After the assassination of his mother, and his sister was left blind and crippled, Lelouch swore vengence on the Empire, and has been looking for ways to accomplish that goal. Seven years after the invasion of Japan, he becomes accidentally involved with a group of rebels and runs into a strange green-haired girl named C.C. who gives him the power of Geass. With it, Lelouch can control the minds of others, and he has the power to seek revenge for the death of his mother and to destroy Britannia and rebuild the world into his idea of utopia.


I heard a lot about this series leading up to its debut on Adult Swim, but I kept missing episodes, and so I wasn't able to watch it when it came out. Now it's out on DVD, and so I ordered it from Netflix. I have to say, it's really good, especially when compared to some of the other space opera-esque/mecha series that have recently come out (Aquarion, I'm looking at you). The only issue I had with it was that it's a pretty involved series, so if you zone out, you're likely to miss something important, but it also drags in a couple of places, so it's easy to zone out. However, for the most part I was interested in the characters, and enjoyed the alternate history, and plot intrigues. I definitely recommend checking this one out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

MeruPuri


Overall Rating: B+
Summary: A Romance/Fantasy/Comedy shōjo series created by Matsuri Hino, which follows average high school girl Airi Hoshina. Airi wants only three things in life - to meet a nice boy, get married at 20, and have an ordinary, loving family. Unfortunately for Airi, her life is about to become a lot more complicated when she drops the strange hand mirror that has been in her family for generations.

When Airi goes back to find the mirror, a 7-year-old boy named Aram is waiting for her with it. The boy acts like nobility, which is to say kind of like an ass, but that might be because he is...in another dimension. Oh snap! Aram's uncle (or something, I think it was his uncle) is trying to take his magic powers away from him and age him prematurely. To escape, Aram has travelled to our dimension, but if he stays in the dark too long he will rapidly age about ten years. The only way to restore his youth is the kiss of his true love, and Aram decides his true love is Airi! Hijinks ensue as Airi tries to help Aram while still going to school and trying to find the normal boy she wants to marry, but what if Aram (17-year-old!) is who she really wants?

MeruPuri is another Shōjo series by Matsuri Hino, who also created Vampire Knight and Wanted. I picked this one up, because I enjoy her other work (and love Shōjo). This one didn't disappoint. It's only four volumes long, but it's a fun story. I particularly enjoy when Aram ages ten years in appearance, but acts like a seven-year-old. I recommend this one to anyone who enjoys Shōjo series and particularly Matsuri Hino's work.

Check out an online preview of the manga here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Yggdrasil


Overall Rating: D+
Summary: Created by Lay Mutsuki, this seinen series is set "in the near future, and online gaming is all the rage!" Apparently, that's an important distinction, since no one plays online games these days. In the "near future" the same company that produces the most popular online game also produces the most popular OS and the two are shipped together. Luckily for Koki Tachibana, his father works for the company! Koki has been doing testing for his dad since the game started, and now he has two characters. One who is a pretty standard character and one that's the most powerful character in the game. Unfortunately for Koki, someone has hacked his account and is playing with the god-like character.

Now Koki's has to find out who's been logging into his account before they cause any major problems.

"
Yggdrasil" sounded kind of interesting, so I gave it a shot, but I was pretty disappointed. The plot is pretty interesting, but so far none of the characters have much depth. Also, it was billed as being supernatural/fantasy, but so far the only aspects of the story that has been along those lines have been in the online game. Hopefully the series will improve in later volumes.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wanted


Overall Rating: B
Summary: A one-shot Shōjo manga created by Matsuri Hino, which follows a young orphan girl named Armeria.  The story is set in the 17th-century, and Armeria belongs to a music group that sings for work. While singing for the Governer-General at his mansion, she meets Luce Lanceman, the Governor-General's nephew, and falls in love with him after he gives her an Armeria flower. The same night, Luce is kidnapped by the crew of the notorious pirate, Skulls.
Armeria vows to find Luce and rescue him from Skulls.

Eight years later, we find Armeria disguised as a young man, and she has managed to join Skulls' crew. However, joining a pirate crew isn't all she bargained for, and she quickly ends up over her head. Now she has to figure out what happened to her beloved Luce, and make sure she survives the experience.


Matusuri Hino is also the creator of Vampire Knight, a series I love, so I was excited to see something new from her. On top of that, the story was a vampire romance! What more could a boy ask for? The story is pretty solid, but it's also kind of derivative. It reminded me of a manga version of Princess Bride, which isn't actually that bad a thing. Overall, I enjoyed the characters, and I would have rated it higher if it weren't for the fact that I felt like I had already read parts of the book before. It was still a lot of fun though, and I definitely recommend it to fellow Shōjo lovers.

Friday, September 5, 2008

I, Otaku: Struggle in Akihabara


Overall Rating: C+
Summary: a Shōnen comedy created by Jirō Suzuki, which follows Sota, your average highschool guy. He's pretty popular, and has an attractive girlfriend, but Sota has a secret life as an otaku. Particularly, he is obsessed with a character called Papico, and he will cancel all of his plans for the chance to buy new collector's items for the character.

This leads to the bulk of the plot when one day he can't find the latest Papico release, the Ultra Limited Edition Wonder Digital Dokidoki Doggy Papico figure. As a result, Sota ends up in a store called Otakudo, where the owner (Mano Takuro) has the hard-to-find item. However, in order to buy the item he has to admit that he is an otaku. Somehow, Sato's girlfriend, Eri, has shown up at the store after following Sota, and Sota ends up confessing his obsession to her. Hilarity ensues.

I picked this one up, because I saw some of myself in it. When I was in high school, I wasn't that popular, hadn't even kissed a girl, and hadn't figure out A) my hair, B) black is a good color on me and B) women like men in eyeliner. I looked like a preppy kid who was trying too hard. I was also hiding my geekiness in the desperate hope that I could become popular. By hiding it, I meant I only played Magic: the Gathering before school in the science classroom and in front of the band room (I wasn't in band, but I was a geek). All of this is to say I really wanted to like this manga. The series seems to focus more on being a parody of otaku than on the trials of being a closet geek. I still enjoyed it, but the characters aren't very deep, and the plot mostly focuses on the small group of otaku and their hijinks. If you're looking for a fun, light read, then this is worth checking out, but if you want a plot and interesting characters, then I recommend you pass.

Check out a preview here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ghost Talker’s Daydream


Overall Rating: B
Summary: A supernatural seinen (18+) written by Saki Okuse with art by Sankichi Meguro, which follows Misaki Saiki, a normal 19-year-old woman who is holding down two jobs to make ends meet. However, her jobs are a bit...odd. Misaki works as a dominatrix and as a necromancer. Working for the Livlihood Protection Agency, she uses her ability to see and speak with spirits to help them find peace and move on.

Misaki works with Souichiro Kadotake, an agent for the LPA, who is a martial artist and afraid of ghosts. To add more zany hijinks to the series, Misaki is an albino and a virgin. Crazy!

I liked the sound of this manga from the blurb, so I decided to pick it up. Honestly, it was about what I expected. It's going for the same kind of dark humor that Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service does so well, and adds a bit of sex appeal. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, Ghost Talker's Daydream doesn't quite pull it off. For me, it's the sex appeal, which is used too often in unnecessary crotch shots and bad jokes. I think if the series went with less fan service and more dark humor, it could be as good as Kurosagi. As is, it's just okay. If you're 18+ and in the mood for a mature supernatural manga, then check it out, but be prepared. Check out a preview here: http://www.darkhorse.com/Books/Previews/14-972?page=0

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Machine Girl

Warning: This movie is incredibly violent






Overall Rating: B
Summary: An action/horror film directed by Noboru Iguchi about a young Japanese schoolgirl named Ami Hyūga. Ami was an average high school girl whose mother and father commited suicide after allegations that they murdered someone(s). Now, all she has left is her brother. So, when her brother and his friend are killed by bullies, she swears revenge!

Ami begins tracking down and killing the bullies involved in her brother's death, but discovers the ringleader is the son of a ninja yakuza family. Despite being an amazing fighter, Ami is captured and the family tortures her, eventually cutting off her left arm. Managing to escape, but barely hanging on to life, Ami seeks shelter from the parents of her brother's friend. The mechanics take pity on her (after she beats the mom in an arm-wrestling match) and the father constructs a machine-gun arm for Ami. They then set out to seek revenge for their dead family members.

"The Machine Girl" is a hilarious gore-fest. Defintiely not for the faint-of-heart (I was squirming depsite how fake the gore is), but I definitely recommend it for a laugh. I would have rated it higher, but the movie leaves a lot of loose ends. For example, they never explain her parent's deaths outside of the fact that they were accused of murder. There are a couple of other parts where the scene doesn't really have much context, and they never explain why Ami is such a bad ass. Still, it's a lot of fun, and I recommend it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Simoun





Overall Rating: B+
Summary: Set on the planet Daikūriku, which is populated by a humanoid race who are all born female. At the age of 17, everyone is expected to choose a permanent gender and then live their lives that way. The focus of the anime is on two warring nations, the Simulacrum and the Argentum.

The Simulacrum seems more technologically advanced, and is cleaner, while the Argentum has technology similar to that of industrialized nations of the 20's and 30's. This includes zepplins and biplane fighter aircraft. The Argentum's economy has been failing, and pollution is on the rise, so as the series begins, Argentum is preparing to launch an attack on Simulacrum, who are the only ones with helical motor technology. The Argentum believe this technology will help them improve their economy and clear their skies.

The main defense of the Simulacrum is the Simoun, which are aircraft that can seat two and is powered by two helical motors. The helical motor is technology from an ancient civilization, and not even the Simulacrum fully understand it. The Simulacrum's theocracy is centered around these aircraft and their pilots.

In the past, the Simulacrum found the ships during an excavation, and according to their religion, two priestesses descended from heaven and explained to them how to operate the Simouns. Both the ship's power and the Simulacrum's religion center around the Tempus Spatium. They beleive it is this power that allows young women to change their genders at 17 and powers the Simoun.

The Simoun are crewed by priestesses called Sibyllae. The Sibylla (the plural of Sibyllae) have not yet chosen a gender, and doing so disqualifies them as Sibylla. In fact, because of the war some Sybylla have been given permission to delay their choice of gender past the age of 17 to defend the country.

The main weapon of the Simoun is a large glowing green gem, positioned between the cockpits, which produces an effect known as Ri Mājon when the Simoun is flown in the correct pattern. The Simoun Gem is activated before takeoff when the two Sibyllae kiss it after kissing each other (which isn't really explained at all). The Ri Mājon are incredibly powerful and can destroy all the ships in an area if successfully done.

Sibyllae are organized into chors of twelve priestesses. A choir at full strength operates six Simoun, which is sufficient to allow them to inscribe the most complex known Ri Mājon patterns in the sky. The series focuses on one particular Simoun choir, Chor Tempest, which has a reputation as an elite unit.

I decided to check this anime out at Gen Con Indy last week, because it sounded interesting. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I love watching anime at cons. Unfortunately, the crowd there was made up of immature boys who high-fived and giggled nervously every time the girls kissed. I admit to being confused by why they needed to kiss to activate the Simoun, but the behavior of the boys made the anime a lot less enjoyable. Regardless, what I saw of it was really good, and I ended up interested in seeing what happens next, so I will definitely be checking more of it out. Just a warning that you should go into it knowing there are girls kissing and some ennuendo, but it really didn't come off as all that sexual to me. More like when you're in elementry school or junior high/middle school, and you know that you like someone, but you have no idea what to do about it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Absolute Boyfriend


Overall Rating: A
Summary: A romantic comedy manga with a splash of science fiction created by Yuu Watase. Absolute Boyfriend is six volumes long and is the story of Riiko Izawa. Riiko is a high school girl with an addiction to buying things online, and has never had a boyfriend. In fact, she is rejected by every boy she asks out. The manga begins with Riiko asking out her current crush, and being immediately rejected.

After the rejection, she is wandering in the park, and finds a ringing cellphone. After answering the call, she returns the phone to an oddly dressed (kind of steampunk actually) man named Gaku. Gaku is a salesman for a strange website called Kronos Heaven, and offers Riiko anything she wants on the site for returning the phone. Riiko responds that all she wants is a boyfriend, and to her surprise Gaku says he can help.

When Riiko visits the site, she learns she can create her ideal lover. Still not believing Gaku, she customizes her lover with options like loyal, intelligent, attractive, etc. and orders him for a three-day trial.
The next day, men wearing outfits as strange as Gaku's deliver a large box to her door, and inside is a life-like figure...who is completely naked (don't worry, there's no nudity). Following the instruction manual, Riiko kisses him to wake him up, which also makes him to be in love with her. Unable to think of anything else, Riiko names him "Night".

Now Riiko has to deal with a man living with her (she lives alone) who wants to have sex all the time, a next-door neighbor named Soshi who may be more than a friend, a best friend who may be hiding things from her and who she is now hiding things from, and how to explain all of this without anyone finding out who "Night" really is.

I'm two volumes into this one, and I am hooked. This is another one Rachel recommended to me, and after "Life" I needed something lighter. "Absolute Boyfriend" definitely did the trick. This one is fun, has some great plot, and the characters are interesting. I also loved the progression of Night's personality. When the manga starts he's basically a robot and a bit silly (and very pretty). As it progresses, he develops feelings, and his rivalry with the serious Soshi provides a lot of humor and depth to the story. If you're looking for something light, then this one is a great choice.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Life


Overall Rating: A+, but in a kind of disturbing way
Summary: In the drama Shōjo manga created by Keiko Suenobu, we meet Ayumu Shiiba, a middle school student who is intelligent, but struggles with her studies.  Ayumu is getting ready for her high school entrance exams, and relies heavily on help from her best friend Shii.

Shii's dream is to get into Nishidate High School, and Ayumu resolves to get in to. Shii always does well in class, and with her help, Ayumu continually improves in her studies. After raising her grades and doing well on the exams, Ayumu makes it into Nishidate, but surprisingly Shii doesn't make it. Apparently, helping Ayumu brought Shii's grades down, and Shii blames her failure on Ayumu.

As Ayumu starts high school, she has started cutting herself to understand her friend's pain and feel completely alone. Fortunately, she meets Manami who befriends her and the two start hanging out.

All of the above happens in the first volume of the series, and gets darker as the volume progresses. After volume 1, apparently Borders starts shrink-wrapping the volumes, and after Volume 6, the volumes go from Older Teen to Mature, so this stuff definitely isn't for kids. In fact, I had to take a break from reading, and then read something light after I got done, because even volume 1 is intense. However, it's also amazingly compelling, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Just go into knowing it's pretty brutal, and realistic in terms of portraying depression, and bullying in Japanese high schools (though it is certainly sensationalized to a degree).

Friday, August 8, 2008

Kasumi


Overall Rating: A
Summary: In this fantasy shōjo manga written by Surt Lim with art by Hirofumi Sugimoto we're introduced to Kasumi, a normal high-school girl. Well, almost normal anyway. Kasumi and her father move away from the city when he gets a new job, and Kasumi gets enrolled in an elite private school. Fairly typical manga plot so far, but Kasumi isn't a normal girl. On the way to their new home, Kasumi and her father stop in some woods so her father can look at some plants (I think I remember correctly that her father is a Botanist), and Kasumi falls out of a tree she has been climbing. The tree is high enough that the fall should kill her, but she is saved by mysterious lights.

After recovering, she discovers she can turn invisible, but only for as long as she can hold her breath. This power comes in handy when she inadvertently pisses off the fan club of the class president Ryuuki (this is very similar to the fan club in Fruits Basket for Yuki). Led by the Vice President, Reina, the club makes Kasumi's life hell, and tries to get her to leave the school. Fortunately, Kasumi makes friends with Yuuta, whose nickname is Otaku-Ken because he is such a nerd and tries to help her. Kasumi also meets Maiko, a fellow student who seems to have a connection to the mysterious lights, and what is the enigmatic Ryuuki up to?

I actually enjoyed this one a lot, even though some of the plot was very familiar. The plot and characters were different enough from Fruits Basket that I really enjoyed it, and the art is very cute (though the lack of noses on some characters distracted me occasionally). Overall though it's a good start to a shōjo series, and I will definitely be checking out the next volume.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fairy Cube


Overall Rating: A
Summary: A three volume fantasy shōjo created by Kaori Yuki, which follows high school boy Ian Hasumi. Ian was born with wing marks on his back and the ability to see fairies and the world they live in. Unfortunately for Ian, no one believes him, and have taken to calling him "Ian the Liar". Ian also has a spirit twin named Tokage who hates him and an abusive father who burned the fairy marks off his back when Ian's mother left to prevent Ian from "flying away". Not so great actually.

Recently, there have been a series of murders in the city. The victims have had  their backs slit open and the blood spurting out has formed the shape of wings. As a result, the crimes have been dubbed "the fairy murders".

Ian's childhood friend Rin Ishinagi is the only one that ever seemed to beleive Ian's stories of fairies. In fact, he was once able to show her the fairy world. Now she has returned to the city, and Ian's feelings for her are returning as well. Unfortunately, they may cause him even more trouble!

Okay, I picked this one up on a whim in Borders the other day (I thought the title sounded funny), and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. The characters and plot drew me in and has me wanting to read volume 2 as soon as possible (it's already out but I haven't had a chance to get back over to Borders. I definitely recommend this one to fantasy and shōjo lovers. Check it out the first 22 pages online here

Friday, August 1, 2008

Yoki Koto Kiku


Overall Rating: B
Summary: Created by Koge-Donbo, this dark comedy series is a parody of a Japanese mystery novel, "The Inugami Clan". The series follows Yoki, Koto, and Kiku Nekogami - three triplets who love each other, their older brother Sukekiyo, and his fiancee Tamayo. However, the patriarch of the Nekogami family dies and leaves the family fortune to his eldest grandson, Sukekiyo, who is off at war. If Sukekiyo does not return within six months, one of the triplets or Sukekiyo's fiancee, Tamayo, will inherit the fortune.


That's when the trouble begins! The triplets plot to take out Tamayo and each other so that they will be the one to inherit the fortune. Each of the triplets has a dream for what they want to do with the money, and a weapon of choice. Tamayo tries to play the peacemaker and is apparently an expert at avoiding weapons and fights in general.


I was a little surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. It's very dark humor with the triplets seemingly killing each other and constantly plotting each other's and Tamayo's deaths. The only thing I didn't like about this one was that it was sometimes hard to follow. For example, early on the triplets kill each other, but then they keep showing up. Whether they are dead and shinigami, or never really died wasn't entirely clear to me. I think this is part of the parody aspect of the manga, but the confusion led to me rating it lower. Regardless, I recommend this one to anyone who enjoys dark humor. 

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ninja Nonsense: The Legend of Shinobu

Overall Rating: C-
Summary: An anime series by Ryoichi Koga, Ninja Nonsense follows Shinobu a kind, hardworking, dedicated, but naive and somewhat clumsy ninja apprentice. The anime is reminiscent of Excel Saga or Nerima Daikon Brothers, and similarly does not have much of a story-arc, or even much plot in a single episode.

In the first episode Shinobu is attempting to pass her ninja exams which include staking panties from specific high school girls. One of these girls is Kaede, who is studying for her own completely normal school exams. Shinobu performs her invisibility spell, and sneaks into Kaede's room to steal her panties. Only one problem, Shinobu isn't a very good ninja, her spell doesn't work, and Kaede can see her while she "sneaks" in. Of course, things don't go as planned, and Shinobu ends up explaining the whole thing. Despite the fact that Shinobu is trying to steal her panties, Kaede takes pity on Shinobu, and the two become close friends for little to no reason.


Yeeeaahhhhh...this was a really weird one. Something I didn't cover in the summary is Shinobu's instructor, Onsokumaru. This thing is freaky. It's a shape-changing creature usually portrayed as a large yellow ball with a face, arms, and a loud deep voice. He's also extremely perverted (he's the one who wanted the panties). He took this from being a weird, over-the-top anime, and took it to another level. An extremely weird level. If you're into absurdist comedies, you may like this one, but otherwise I can't recommend it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vassalord

Overall Rating: B-
Summary: Charley, a cyborg vampire who does the Vatican's dirty work, is the thrall of the local vampire playboy Johnny Rayflo. As the two of them fight crime--and each other--hilarity, violence and sacrilege ensue! But can Charley resist his own desperate cravings for blood? Find out as the devilish duo go up against a childlike vampire princess, a mysterious branch of the Unitarian Church...and each other

The above summary is the actual summary on the back of the manga. I am using it here, because it's why I bought the book. "Cyborg vampire who does the Vatican's dirty work"? That's sounds like three manga clichés I love! I was hoping for something so bad it was amazing, but Vassalord is actually decent. Not amazing, and it certainly falls into clichés, but it's pretty interesting, and it's got some good shounen ai action in there for my friends who are into that. My main gripe is that that there is obviously a lot of history between the two main characters, but it's only really hinted at. I think that as the characters become a little more developed this will be the perfect guilty read.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Emma: A Victorian Romance

Overall Rating: A
Summary: A historical romance series by Kaoru Mori. Emma is set in Victorian London, and is the story of a maid (surprisingly, her name is Emma) who falls in love with a nobleman named William Jones. Unfortunately, as the heir to his family, William is encouraged to marry into another wealthy family, and his family disapproves of him associating with people of the lower classes. Obviously, Emma is not their idea of marrying material. The series revolves around the tension caused by their love.

Emma is a great story that reminds me more of seminal Victorian novels like "Jane Eyre" and "Pride and Prejudice" that has been made into a anime. It is different from a lot of other anime/manga set in Victorian times as it does not include any fantasy or alternate history aspects to the story. If you like period romances, this one's definitely for you!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Strawberry Marshmallow

Overall Rating: A
Summary: Created by Barasui, this comedy/slice of life manga follows Nobue and her younger sister Chika, Miu, Matsuri and Ana through their everyday lives. What separates Strawberry Marshmallow from other slice of life comedies like Azumanga Daioh or Lucky Star is that the 16-year-old Nobue drinks and smokes, and acts like an irresponsible adult. In many ways, she fills the adult role that teachers and parents usually fill in these types of series. In other words, she is dysfunctional and the younger characters (everyone else is 11-12) seem more mature at times.

Of course, the group also has it's requisite moe characters in the form of Matsuri and Ana. In one chapter, Nobue forces Matsuri to wear a cat hat and tail, and say "meow" after everything, including when trying to purchase a new hat from a salesperson. Ana (who isn't introduced until volume 2) is from England, but has lived in Japan for five years and has forgotten how to speak proper English. Nonetheless, she decides that she is only going to speak in English and pretend not to understand Japanese, which inevitably leads to hilarity.

In contrast, Chika is portrayed as being the most responsible girl in the group (including Nobue), and is usually the voice of reason and an excellent cook. Miu on the other hand is the "problem child" of the group, says weird things out of the blue, and tries to play pranks on Matsuri and Ana.


I really enjoy slice of life manga and anime, and so it's no surprise I like Strawberry Marshmallow. I've read the first two volumes so far, and 3-4 are on the nightstand. If you enjoy this style, this one is definitely up your alley, but if you have a cuteness allergy, you should probably stay away!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Last Quarter



(Sorry, I couldn't find a trailer with subtitles)

Overall Rating: B+
Summary: Last Quarter, or Kagen no Tsuki, is a 2004 Japanese film directed by Ken Nikai, and is based on Ai Yazawa's manga (which to my knowledge has not been published in the US yet). The story follows Mizuki Mochizuki, a high school student with a dysfunctional family. Mizuki's mother committed suicide after finding out that Mizuki's father had cheated on her. Mizuki now lives with her father, his mistress (who he has now married, and her stepsister. The movie opens at her birthday party where one of her friends shows her a video of Mizuki's boyfriend, Tomoki Anzai, sleeping with her. Happy birthday!

She confronts Tomoki while his band is playing and throws her shoe at him, and then runs off. This proves to be a big mistake since she has to walk home with only one shoe. While walking home, she hears a song playing and wanders into an abandoned mansion to see who is playing it. There she finds a man named Adam, who claims to know her (which isn't creepy or anything), and that he's from London. When she gets ready to leave for the night (did I mention this all happens really late at night?), Adam asks her to stay, but she leaves.

Mizuki keeps going back to visit Adam and becomes closer and closer to him, while withdrawing from her old life more and more, eventually moving in with him. Everything is going well, until Adam disappears one day with no warning. Then, Mizuki's phone rings and its Adam (she has never given him her number) telling her he had to leave. She asks him to take her with him, and he tells her to meet him. She goes to the meeting place, and sees him across the street from her. Despite all the reasons not to go with him, she decides it's what she wants, and crosses the street. Tomoki witnesses all of this and tries to shout out to her, because it's a red light, but it's too late and a car hits her, putting her into a coma.

After the accident, Mizuki wakes up in front of an endless metal fence with no one around. A young girl shows up looking for her cat. Mizuki helps her find it, and then the girl and the cat disappear. The cat returns almost immediately though, and runs through the gate, where Mizuki sees Adam.

In a hospital, the young girl Mizuki had met, who we learn is named Hotaru, woke up from a coma. She had been hospitalized when she was hit by a car while searching for her lost cat. After leaving the hospital, she continued to look for her cat, and eventually finds one which looks exactly like hers. The cat hops through a fence surrounding an old and deserted mansion, which Hotaru obviously enters (I think the characters in this are really into old, deserted mansions since they keep going into them at the drop of a hat), and is surprised to find Mizuki inside. Apparently, it wasn't all a dream.

Unfortunately, Mizuki has become a ghost, and doesn't remember who she is, only that she loves Adam and needs to find him. Hotaru and her friend Sae try to help Mizuki find Adam and to figure out who she is.


Despite the fact that the main characters tended to make some pretty stupid decisions, I really enjoyed Last Quarter. It had a much more serious feel to it than most of Ai Yazawa's series, but the relationships were very reminiscent of her other work. If you like dark romance stories, and/or Ai Yazawa's work, then you'll probably enjoy "Last Quarter".

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Croquis Pop

Overall Rating: C+
Synopsis: A Manhwa (korean comic) written by KwangHyun Seo, with art by JinHo KoThe, Croquis Pop is the story of Da-Il, the latest assistant of the famous Manwha creator Ho Go. Unfortunately, he sucks as an artist, but he and his dead mom wanted him to draw the hopes and dreams of others, so he's determined to succeed (this speech wins Ho Go over and pisses off the current head assistant). However, Da-Il isn't just any assistant, apparently he has the power of a Croquer, which allows him to enter the “Dead Zone”, a place only the dead can see, and bring his art to life there.

On his first trip to the "Dead Zone", Da-Il encounters Mu-Huk, a spirit that battles the spirits brought to life by grudges. Apparently, Mu-Huk was created by Da-Il, but Da-Il doesn't remember creating the guy. Oh, also, the adventures that occur in the "Dead Zone" are given to other creators (like Ho Go) to draw. Very weird stuff.


Very weird is a great way to describe this one. I kind of like it, and the ideas are interesting and pretty unique, but the plot can get a bit hard to follow and I don't really like Da-Il, which makes it hard to care about what's going on with him. Volume 2 is due out later this year, so I may check that one out as well and see if it improves at all. If you're looking for something a little different in a teen hero story, check this one out. Otherwise, leave it on the shelf.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nerima Daikon Brothers

Overall Rating: C-
Summary: A musical comedy series that follows the adventures of Hideki (who has an unhealthy crush on his cousin Mako), Ichiro (Hideki's brother, a host, and the bishi of the show), and Mako (their cousin and self-proclaimed former idol) who form the band, "Nerima Daikon Brothers." The characters have a habit of breaking out in song every few minutes to describe what's going on. The core of the plot is that the Nerima Daikon Brothers live on a small stage in Hideko's daikon patch in Nerima (a ward of Tokyo). Their dream is to build a huge stadium and to perform in front of sold out crowds, but they're always broke.

Each episode involves a new way for them to make money (usually by foiling some plot to take money from others), succeeding, but then losing all the money. All with the help of Pandaikon, a panda who showed up in the daikon patch one day, eats a lot of daikon, has daikon leaves sprouting from his head, and whom Ichiro has an unhealthy relationship with.


This show was pretty funny the first episode or two, but it is incredibly formulaic, so by the fourth episode I was pretty much done with it. If you like anime like Excel Saga (both are directed by Shinichi Watanabe), you'll probably enjoy this one as well as they share a similar craziness. Otherwise I recommend checking out an episode or two for a few laughs and then moving on.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cy-Believers Volume 1

Overall Rating: F
Summary: Created by Shioko Mizuki, this comedy/romance series follows a young woman named Rui as she enters Domus Aurea, a new boarding school, and tries to make friends. Unfortunately, it's not easy to find them as after-school clubs are being shut down by Natori, the head of the school's Public Safety Commission, and the man her father has betrothed her to. To make matters worse, Natori is a sociopath (he tries to rape Rui on several occasions), and only wants her because her family has money. Natori is

Rui, for her part, hates Natori, and tells him so every chance she gets (usually right after clobbering him). Unfortunately, the Public Safety Commission apparently has a lot of power, and so it's hard to escape him. Enter Rio and Azumi, two bishi computer geeks with rebel written all over them. They hate Natori (one of them had some childhood friendship with him, blah blah blah exposition crap I couldn't bring myself to care about), and try to help Rui to fulfill the books quota for bad boys with hearts of gold. Together they form a new club called the Cy-Believers outside of Natori's jurisdiction, and begin working against him.


I can't recommend this one at all. I had my hopes up a bit because it involved bishi geeks, but I didn't find it very funny or romantic, and it needs more humor (and less attempted rapes and helpless heroines) to be even half-way decent. I read this one in the Borders cafe, and couldn't get through it fast enough. I told myself I wasn't going to review it until I finished it (it actually took me two tries to get through it), so I rewarded myself with a smoothie from the cafe when I was done. Others may enjoy the humor and characters, but I didn't find anyone remotely interesting or sympathetic.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Lucky Star


Overall Rating: A
Summary: an anime series based on the manga series of the same name by Kagami Yoshimizu. Lucky Star follows the lives of four high school girls (they look really young, but they're supposed to be in their second year) who have a very...interesting sense of humor. The main character is Konata Izumi, who is athletic, but doesn't belong to a sports team because it would interfere with her primetime anime shows. She does poorly in school, because she only cares about watching anime, reading manga and playing video games.

Lucky Star is very meta, and references a lot of popular manga and anime. For example, in one scene, the characters are playing a beat matching game in an arcade (using drums) and the song they are playing is "Hare Hare Yukai" from "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya", and apparently at some point they actually perform the dance from that song. They also have a segment at the end of each episode called Lucky Channel. The segment is co-hosted by an "idol" named Akira Kogami, and her assistant Minoru Shiraishi. Akira spends about half the segment in her idol personality (cute, bubbly, etc.) and half being cynical and mature. Supposedly, the segment is to give more information on Lucky Star, but it skims over the characters in the anime and focuses on the increasingly abusive work-relationship between Akira and Minoru.


I love this show so far. It's humor is weird and geeky like mine, and it's a lot of fun to watch. Especially if you're a big geek/otaku. There were a bunch of references I didn't quite catch, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. If you like geeky humor, cute animation, and slice-of-life stories, then I highly recommend it.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Aquarion


Overall Rating: C
Summary: Set eleven years after an event called the "Great Catastrophe", which is basically when most of the world got destroyed and lots of people died. Really a pretty accurate name for such an event. It's not really made clear, but presumably the "Great Catastrophe" was caused by the "Shadow Angels", who are basically humans with wings, who are capturing humans and treating them like cattle. Apparently, Shadow Angels live off of the life force of humans. They use huge spaceships to collect the humans for harvesting, which are guarded by giant robots (of course).

The humans have found (excavated actually, but they don't explain that much) their own giant robots, but have also discovered that they can only be piloted by people that can harness the elements. These robots can then be merged into one super robot (this sounds VERY familiar). Also, apparently merging with the other robots is like sex for the pilots, which is made even weirder by a brother and sister being two of the pilots that "merge" in the first volume.

In the first volume, we meet Silvia and Sirius de Alisia (the brother and sister I mentioned) who are nobles, and Apollo the protagonist who is a street urchin and apparently the reincarnation of a Shadow Angel who betrayed the others for his love of a human (it's strongly implied that Silvia is the reincarnation of the human).


Supposedly, this is a homage to the giant robot shows of the 70's and 80's, but it comes across as simply derivative. Good space opera is hard to pull off in my opinion, and when you're essentially using the cliches of the genre to tell your story I think it hurts the plot. If you're a fan of giant robots, you may enjoy this one a lot, but I can't recommend it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Linda Linda Linda

Warning: Video is slight spoiler, but it's also awesome!

Overall Rating: A+
Summary: Linda Linda Linda is the kind of teen coming of age movie that only the Japanese can make. The story focuses on four Japanese High School girls, who get together to form a band. Well, to be accurate, three of the girls, Kei, Kyoko, and Nozomi were already in a band with another guitarist and singer, but three days before the school festival, those girls quit over some drama. To be able to play at the festival, they recruit Korean exchange student Son (the first girl to walk by) to be their singer. Being an exchange student, Son is not fluent in Japanese which leads to some misunderstandings (there's a great scene where she wants to go sing karoake, but doesn't want to buy a drink), but she's enthusiastic which counts for a lot.

The band decides to do covers of the Blue Hearts (a famous Japanese punk band) songs, including "Linda Linda" (which is where the title comes from and what they're performing in the video). With only three days to learn all their parts, the girls get little sleep while they practice.


Although not manga or an anime, "Linda, Linda, Linda" definitely has a lot in common with shōjo, which made me inclined to like it from the beginning. On top of that, The characters are wonderful, and while the pacing can be a bit slow at times, the last third of it is so much fun, that I forgot all about any problems it might have had in the middle third. It made me wish I was a 14-year-old Japanese (or Korean) girl in a band, and I could rock out at a school festival. I bet you'll feel the same way.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kujibiki Unbalance

Overall Rating: B
Summary: In order to understand this series at all, you need a little backgrund first. Kujibiki Unbalance began it's life as a manga and related anime series within the world of the manga and related anime series of Genshiken (Go check out this manga/anime, it's one of my favorites!). Confused yet? Essentially, the characters in Genshiken are obsessed with Kujubiki Unbalance. In the manga, we get notes on the series in between chapters and the characters refer to the show. However, in the anime version of Genshiken, they created three episodes of Kujubiki Unbalance as well, and put one episode on each disc, so that you could watch the episodes that the Genshiken characters were watching. It was all very meta.

Then, Genshiken got cancelled, but strangely Kujubiki Unbalance was approved for a 12-episode series, but each of the three discs would have one episode of Genshiken on it (flipping the former format). This review is for the first volume of this series.

The series serves as an homage to, and a parody of, many of the standard themes found in manga and anime, including the influential yet shadowy Student Council, brother-sister relationship weirdness, childhood friends growing apart and then meeting up years later, and more. One oddity of this series is that it is completely different from the series discussed and shown in Genshiken. The character designs are different and the plot differs as well.

I won't get into the previous plot, but both focus on Chihiro, a good-humored but somewhat nerdy looking boy who girls seem attracted to for no apparent reason. In this version, the Student Council is determined by lottery (in the old version there was a competition), and Chihiro is chosen to be president. Tokino, his somewhat-slow childhood friend, and potential romantic interest draws the position of Vice President, a young woman pretentious mad scientist named Renko is the Secretary, and elemantary student Koyuki is their Treasurer. Together, they must prove themselves worthy of being the Student Council for the giant and prestigious Rikkyouin Academy.

The tasks they are given to prove themselves worthy are all mundane so far, but inevitably result in robots, horny pandas, and general hilarity.


This one was really hard for me to review. I love Genshiken, and got the first disc primarily to see the episode of Genshiken on it, but was pleasantly surprised with the quality of Kujubiki Unbalance as well. I'm still not a fan overall, but Renko is hilarious, and I appreciate the parodying of classic manga/anime themes. However, I don't really care about any of the characters, and the plot is really uninteresting. I will be getting the second disc so I can watch the next episode of Genshiken (seriously, if you haven't read/watched this yet, go check it out!) and hopefully Kujibiki Unbalance will improve as well. As it is, I would have preferred the same format as before, with more Genshiken and a few episodes of Kujibiki.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Paradise Kiss Manga Volume 1

Overall Rating: A+
Summary: A fashion/drama/romance Josei series created by Ai Yazawa (who is also the creator of Nana), which follows Yukari "Caroline" Hayasaka. Yukari is an attractive high schooler, but her life consists of traveling from high school to cram school to home, and back again. The manga opens with Yukari running into Arashi (a punk) and Isabella (a transvestite), who are part of a group of fashion students that call their label "Paradise Kiss". Yukari thinks they are perverts (did I mention she's a bit naïve?), and faints.

When she wakes up, she's staring at a pink-haired woman named Miwako (the cute woman in lolita clothing on the cover), who explains the situation, and that they want her to be their model. She refuses, explaining that she's much too busy with school and doing important things, and that fashion students have it easy. This understandably pisses off Arashi (our spiky haired punk boy on the cover), who yells at her, and Yukari quickly leaves. Miwako runs after her and calls her "Caroline", because she doesn't know Yukari's name yet. As a result, Yukari is referred to as "Caroline" by the Paradise Kiss crew. Regardless, Caroline leaves, but drops her student id.

The next day a ridiculously attractive guy named George shows up, and tells Yukari Miwako has her id (he has it). George gets her to go with him, in theory to pick up her id, to the art school Yazagaku. He then takes her to a hair and makeup artist for a makeover (this mostly consists of giving her bangs). After this stop off, they go meet up with the Paradise Kiss crew, and they put Yukari in a dress they designed, give her back her id, and convince her to be their model.


I love Ai Yazawa. Nana is one of my favorite series, and I am now thoroughly addicted to "Paradise Kiss" after only one volume. I had already watched the anime, and finally got around to checking out the manga. Now I wish I had grabbed the first volume as soon as I finished the anime (or even while I was watching the anime). As with "Nana", "Paradise Kiss" has an excellent plot that really draws you in, interesting characters that develop in interesting ways (even in just the first volume), and is a lot of fun. The series is clearly intended for a slightly more mature audience (there are sex scenes, but they aren't explicit), but if you like Josei/Shōjo manga check this one out.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

MPD Psycho Volume 1

Overall Rating: B+
Summary: MPD Psycho is a psychological horror series written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Shou Tajima, which follows Yousuke Kobayashi a former police detective. The series opens with Kobayashi tracking down a serial killer who severs the limbs off his victims. Meanwhile, Kobayashi is suffering from strange dreams where he sees himself killing people. After seeing Kobayashi on tv, the serial killer kidnaps his girlfriend, and severs her limbs, but keeps her alive.

After Kobayashi tracks him down, the killer tells him that he sees something familiar in Kobayashi and that they are on the same side. At that point, another personality emerges, and Kobayashi becomes Shinji Nishizono. Shinji kills the serial killer and is sent to prison. It is implied that the dreams Kobayashi had been having were actually Shinji killing people.

Most of the above is revealed in flashbacks, and the bulk of the first volume is set after Kobayashi is released from prison. His primary personality is now Kazuhiko Amamiya, a brilliant criminologist, and he has been hired to work with a private consulting agency. The agency is headed up by Machi Isono, a criminologist that asked Kobayashi to consult on some cases while he was in prison. They work to track down and bring to justice serial killers, and tend to deal with the really weird and difficult cases the police have trouble solving themselves.


Eiji Otsuka also writes Kurosaki Corpse Delivery Service, which I love, so I was excited to read MPD Psycho. The two titles are very different, and MPD has little of the dark humor that makes Kurosaki great. However, it makes up for that with a great concept, some really intriguing plot, and interesting characters. The only slight negative is that sometimes it feels like they're trying too hard to shock the reader. MPD comes shrink-wrapped and with an 18+ warning for good reason, and I would definitely caution against reading it if you're squeamish. Otherwise, I'm looking forward to checking out volume 2.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Nightmare Inspector Volume 1

Overall Rating: F
Summary: An episodic manga featuring Hiruko, a Baku, a dream eater. Hiruko runs a tea house where people come for his help with their nightmares. After negotiating a price (so far it has always been their dream), Hiruko enters their dream and "fixes" things. Usually this means using common sense and being a stoic ass. After "fixing" things, Hiruko sends the client on their merry way (or not so merry since one ends up dying in real life), and then eats their dream. Mmmmm dreamalicious.

In case it's not already obvious, I really didn't like this manga. Every chapter involves different characters and their dreams with the only consistent aspect being Hiruko (who is boring and has the personality of carboard) and his assistant, whose name I can't even remember (I read this one in B&N last night, so I don't have it on hand for reference). There are a lot of manga with this sort of episodic supernatural theme, but this is one of the worst I've read. Do not bother with it, unless you enjoy being disappointed.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Love★Com Volume 1

Overall Rating: A
Summary: Also known as Lovely Complex, this shōjo romantic comedy is created by Aya Nakahara, and follows Risa, a tall girl, and Ōtani, a short boy. The pair are in high school together, and because of their height differences they are called the "All Hanshin Kyojin" (which is apparently a popular Japanese comedy duo with a similar height diference). The story starts with the two constantly at each other's throats (a sure sign they will be involved in a romance plot), and to make matters worse they're both such bad students that they have to go to summer school.

The first day of summer school, Risa falls in love with a tall boy in her class, Suzuki, and Ōtani proves he's not such a bad guy when he proposes to set her up with him. In exchange, he wants Risa to set him up with her shy friend Chiharu. Of course, hijinks and romantic entanglments ensue! Will Risa and Ōtani end up together, or will they end up with their crushes?


I can't help but love this manga already. It's got the kind of cute awkwardness that I love to see in a shōjo, because it feels more realistic. I spent the first volume hoping Risa and Ōtani would get together, but clearly I will have to keep reading as they aren't there yet. A great manga for the shōjo lover in all of us, and I plan to check out the live action movie soon.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Blood+

Overall Rating: B+
Summary: Loosely tied to the anime "Blood: The Last Vampire", "Blood +" follows seemingly normal schoolgirl named Saya (the main character of B:tLV was also named Says) who suffers from amnesia. However, we quickly learn that she is far form normal when she is attacked by a creature called a chiropteran. A mysterious (and totally hot) man named Haji comes to her rescue and they make out. Actually Haji is giving her some of his blood (I think) and gives her a wicked looking sword, Saya's eyes turn red, and she becomes a bad ass.

Apparently, Saya's blood is the only thing that can destroy chiropterans, and so she must join up with the Red Shield (an organization set up to fight the chiropteran threat.


Blood + is a great anime if you're in the mood for a pretty intense adventure/supernatural series. The characters are interesting, and the plot is engaging (though it feels a bit epic). The first volume is 25 episodes long and aired on Cartoon Network and is now out on DVD.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hikkatsu! Strike a Blow to Vivify Volume 1

Overall Rating: B
Summary: In this comedy/science fiction series created by Yu Yagami, Shota is a young man trying to make a living with his "Repair Blow". The manga is set in a future where geomagnetic abnormalities have made everyday appliances come alive, and Shota has spent the last several years learning how to smack an item just right to fix it. Unfortunately, with his strength, he usually just destroys it. Early on, he runs into Momoko, who was raised by pigeons, who has lost her last 200 yen to a ramen vending machine. Shota promptly uses his "Repair Blow" to "fix" it, and Momoko falls in love with him...clearly she was raised by pigeons. Can Momoko's love help Shota master his "Repair Blow"? Did Momoko really learn "Pigeon Martial Arts" from her foster family? We'll have to read more to find out.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this one, but it's a fun read. If you're looking for a light Shōnen plot that's funny, then this is a good choice. However, if you're looking for detailed characters or a deep plot, you probably want to pass this one by.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dragon Head Volume 1

Overall Rating: A
Summary: Created by Minetaro Mochizuki, the series is a psychological horror seinen manga. Dragon Head follows Teru Aoki, a school kid, who wakes up in a wrecked train. He had been traveling home with his classmates after a school trip, and just before entering a tunnel he saw something strange on the horizon. Some catastrophe has occurred, and now most of his classmates and teachers are dead, the tunnel is oddly hot, and is caved in on both sides.

The only other survivors are Nobou Takahashi who is going insane, and Ako Seto who was wounded in the accident. They have to find a way to survive, and escape the tunnel, but what awaits them outside?


Dragon Head and Metro Survive are similar in that they both involve train accidents where you don't know what the extent of the damage is to the outside world. Both also do an excellent job of keeping you in suspense and wondering what's going to happen next. I enjoyed the different perspectives though, and I find Teru a little more interesting as a main character. I'm excited about getting my hands on Volume 2, and I hope the series keeps up the excitement for the 10 volume run, which was recently released.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Metro Survive Volume 1

Overall Rating: A
Summary: Created by Yuki Fujisawa, the series follows Mishima, who is trying to make a living working as a repairman for Exopolis Tower, a business and entertainment building that is supposed to be the new hotness. Unfortunately, in an effort to get the building completed as quickly as possible, it was shoddily made, and so being a repairman takes up a lot of time. Mishima promises to be home in time for his son's birthday, but his boss is an ass who forces him to take overtime (after threatening to fire Mishima if he doesn't agree. The work ends up taking all night, and on the morning subway train heading home, a massive earthquake strikes and collapses both Exopolis and its underground train lines. Mishima has to survive the disaster along with the other passengers and find a way to get out. Fortunately, his experience as a repairman comes in handy, but can they survive the dangers? Why haven't they received any communication from the surface, and who is that woman on the cover?

Metro Survive is one of those manga that draws you in and then grabs you. When I finished the first volume, I wanted the second one to be out, so I could read more of what happened. I highly recommend this one!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Honey and Clover Volume 1

Overall Rating: A
Summary: A Comedy/Drama/Romance shōjo manga series created by Chika Umino, which follows three students at a fictional art college in Tokyo. The students, Yūta Takemoto, Takumi Mayama and Shinobu Morita, all live in the same apartment complex. Takemoto is the youngest, and is the shy artist-type one would expect to find at an art school. Mayama is the most reasonable of the three, and is a stark contrast to Morita, who is still in college because he can't wake up in time to go to classes. Morita works a mysterious job where he is gone for days at a time, comes back with lots of money and food, and then crashes for 48 hours.

Enter Hagu, an adorable 18 year-old girl who appears, and often acts, like a small child. She's also one the daughter of one of their professor's cousins (I think that's like 1st cousin once removed or something, but I was always bad at that stuff), and is an extremely skilled artist, particularly with pottery. Takemoto and Morita both immediately fall in love with her, and the love triangles commence (oh yeah, there are lots).

The first volume is primarily focused on introducing the characters, and what their lives are like, as well as establishing some of their relationships.


I admit it, this one sucked me in right away. I am a sucker for good shōjo and this is an excellent example of one. The characters are well-developed, and the romantic entanglements are interesting. I don't want to give too much away here, but it's already drawing me in with the first volume. I will say that the image below is of Morita trying to get Hagu to pose as a "koropokkur" (faerie). <3

Friday, March 28, 2008

Switch Manga Volume 1


Overall Rating: C-
Summary: This police mystery manga by Naked Ape follows two new recruits to the Narcotics Control Department in Japan, Hal and Kai. Kai looks like your average, cute manga boy, but apparently has a violent, dark side that shows itself in the first volume. It looks like who he is and what triggers his "switch" to dark Kai is going to be a big part of this manga.

Adding to the plot is a new drug called "Dragon Speed" (basically really bad ass speed), which is being distributed by a Chinese drug ring. It's even rumored that a major star, Kyoya Shirai is addicted to the drug. Kai goes undercover to find out if he's an addict, and who his supplier is before Kyoya dies.


The premise of Switch sounded interesting, so I picked it up. The premise held for the first volume, but the characters were pretty bland. I didn’t really get into any of them, so even though the art was cool, and the story was pretty decent, I just wasn’t that interested in the book. I may check out volume 2 to see if it’s any better.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tweeny Witches Anime Volume 1



Overall Rating: D-
Official Summary: Alice believes in magic. With all her heart, she believes that magic is possible and that it can be used for good deeds and fun games. But suddenly, she finds herself transported into another world, ruled by a mysterious elite of witches - and these witches don't seem to be in it for the fun. They're hard at work capturing sprites, the native magical beings of the world, and forcing them into slavery. Once Alice realizes that her new surroundings aren't just a dream, she sets out to change things.

I am using the "official" summary for the series, because I only got through one episode. The art is beautiful, and why I didn't give this one an F, but the dialogue is horrendous. Like painfully bad. We even tried switching to Japanese with English subtitles in case it was just a bad dub, but the subtitles were just as bad. Very disappointing, since like I said, the animation is gorgeous.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mushishi Anime Volume 1

Overall Rating: B+
Synopsis: A historical fantasy/psychological seinen series directed by Hiroshi Nagahama and animated by Artland. The story follows Ginko, a mushishi master, who travels the land finding and studying mushi, and helping those affected by them.

In the series, mushi are described as the purest form of life, an as being in touch with the essence of life. Mushi have many different qualities and are neither good nor evil. Because of their nature, only some people can see the mushi. As a result, many of the legends of ghosts and other supernatural occurrences are humans trying to interpret the actions of the mushi. Depending on the type of mushi, they may either help or harm humans they interact with, and we see many varieties during the course of the show.

Ginko has lost the use of one eye, had his hair turned white and his other eye turned green as the result of a run-in with a mushi, but we don't learn much more about him in the first four episodes. The few things we do learn are that he constantly smokes to keep away the mushi that are always drawn to him, and that he carries a box on his back that contains medicines to help deal with the mushi.


I really enjoyed Mushishi. The series is a little slow in it's pacing, and the episodic nature of it means the only consistent character is Ginko, but it's an incredibly interesting world. I'm looking forward to watching more of the series and learning more about Ginko and the mushi.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Yozakura Quartet Volume 1

Overall Rating: B-
Synopsis: A supernatural comedy manga created by Suzuhito Yasuda, the series follows the members of the Hiizumi Seikatsu Soudan Jimusho (Hiizumi's Everyday-life Consultation Office), a group of three women with superpowers and one normal guy. As Del Ray (the publisher) puts it, "Hime is a superheroine. Ao can read minds. Kotoha can conjure up anything with the right word. And Akina . . . well, he’s just a regular guy..."

In addition to being a superheroine, Hime is also the mayor of Hiizumi and has been since her grandmother died (apparently being mayor is hereditary here). She and the rest of the team take care of the town from problems, both mundane and supernatural. Akina is the manager of the team, which apparently involves offering moral support for the women, and gets stuck paying for the food.

The first volume consists of a few stories to give us some connection to the characters and the story. The first one gives us an idea of who the team is, and then we get stories focusing on the women. The one for Hime focuses on a lost dog, that Hime seems uncharacteristically harsh to and then turns into a demon. We also have a story dedicated to Ao, and the fact that she has concerns about whether she has the right to read the minds of others. Finally, we have the story focusing on Kotoha, who wants to take a trip to Germany and we find out just how odd she is.


In my opinion, Yozakura Quartet had it's good and bad points, but the good won out. However, let's start with the bad. The plot of the stories leaves a lot to be desired, with long buildups and not-as-exciting-as-I-was-hoping adventures. However, it has a lot of promise, and the creator hints that volume 2 may pick up some. On the good side, I love the art, the characters are really interesting and fun, and the concept is great. I'm hoping volume 2, which comes out May 20th, will pull me in even more.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Black Blood Brothers

Overall Rating: D/B
Synopsis: The series is a supernatural action comedy, and it focuses on Jiro Mochizuki, an "Old Blood" (i.e. really fucking old) vampire. He and his little brother Kotaro are trying to get to the Special Zone (yep, that's what it's called), a city where vampires live.

You see, in BBB, humans know about vampires and have created the Order Coffin Company, who mediate between humans and vampires. Unfortunately, there is a group of really bad vampires called Kowloon Children who are pretty much the worst (as we are told over and over again). No one likes them, which is probably why they are so mean. That and they appear to be insane, but whatever.

Anyway, Jiro is a total bad ass, except water and sunlight mess him up. For some reason (I think they explain this at some point) Kotaro does not give even one fuck about these things, but he sucks at everything else except laughing.
Can these two get to the special zone? What will happen when they get there? Dun dun ddduuunnnnnnn!


So, it should be pretty obvious by now that this anime is ridiculous. Jiro at one point beats up his little brother (because Kotaro woke him up) by flipping the bird at Kotaro as hard as he could. Seriously. Jiro apparently has a power called the Hide Hand that lets him do this, which is silly.

Essentially, the anime makes little sense, but it is also hilarious and it's amusing to make fun of the characters and their antics. If you want a good vampire anime, check out Hellsing Ultimate. If you want to laugh at the ridiculous hat Jiro wears, then check out Black Blood Brothers.